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Louise Harra - solar guides


Hi, my name's Louise Harra:


Image of Louise HarraWhere do you work?
I was born in Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. I went to the Banbridge Academy but I didn't study maths, physics, chemistry or astronomy. Not a bit of it - I did English Literature instead! Well, you need to be able to write in science as well.


My favourite author, Irish of course, is Jennifer Johnston. Well eventually, I ended up at the Queens University of Belfast and started getting interested in solar physics. Now I work at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) in Surrey. I work with SOHO and YOHKOH data and have been studying many solar features, especially active region and solar flares.


Image of Louise by a computer screenHave you ever worked outside the UK?
During my years studying the Sun, I calculated I've travelled over 150,000 km. That's over a third of the way to the Moon. I had the opportunity to work at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Japan. This was a fantastic experience since it was the centre of operations for the YOHKOH satellite, and it was great fun seeing the data come down from the spacecraft almost immediately.


Image of Louise kneeling in Japan




So what is it like living in the Far East?

It was wonderful living in Japan for a while and in many ways it has become a second home. The country is a fascinating collection of contrasts, a delightful mix of the old and the new. There is the furious pace of the futuristic 'Bladerunner' streets of Shinjuku, to the Zen calm of the Shinto temples in Takayama.


My top tips for Japan are:

1) I learnt how to throw people around the room (a martial art commonly known as Aikido).


Image of a cartoon OctopusImage of some Japanese symbols2) Raw fish can be tasty except when it's octopus!


3) The best bath is a really hot, deep one (Japanese baths are heaven)!


4) Earthquakes are scary (at first we just thought they had very, very large trucks in Japan!)


5) If you get lost you can guarantee that at least 10 people will stop to give directions (all different!)


Image of an International Tempest keel boatWhat do you do besides work?
I've started racing international tempests - an old Olympic racing keel boat. They're 22 ft long, and big enough for two crew. I do the crewing, which means I hang over the edge of the boat in a trapeze to balance the boat and it gets very wet. We even sail in mid winter.


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